Religion Briefs
Saturday, August 4, 2001

Churches denounce embryo destruction

WASHINGTON >> The United Methodist Church has urged one of its best-known members, President Bush, to maintain a moratorium on government-aided stem cell research using human embryos.

That view unites the three biggest U.S. denominations. The Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention also oppose research that destroys human embryos.

James Winkler of the Methodists' Board of Church and Society, the church's social action agency, wrote Bush noting that the denomination last year urged a ban on human cloning and "procedures that intentionally generate 'waste (human) embryos' which will knowingly be destroyed."

Winkler said, "The moral and ethical issues surrounding the beginning of life demand enormous caution in proceeding with activities that result in the destruction of human embryos."

He opposed policies that turn "life into a commodity to be manipulated, controlled, patented and sold."

In June, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) assembly took a different view, endorsing use of embryo stem cells for research only if there are medical goals that cannot be achieved any other way, if embryo donations are kept separate from decisions to abort, and if commerce in human embryos is prohibited.

Publisher's ad campaign provokes lawsuit

NASHVILLE, Tenn. >> Gaylord Entertainment Co., which owns the Grand Ole Opry radio show and other interests, has filed a federal lawsuit against Thomas Nelson Inc., a major Christian book and Bible publisher.

The two sides are arguing over the use of the "Word" trademark in Nelson's advertisements.

In 1996, Gaylord purchased Word Records and Music from Nelson for $110 million and also gained rights to use the Word book imprint. Nelson is now changing its own book imprint to W Publishing and is running ads introducing the new name.

Gaylord says Nelson's humorous ads featuring well-known authors of previous Word books attack the Word trademark.

Sample ad headlines: "There's no hope for revival at Word" (featuring Billy Graham's daughter Anne Graham Lotz). "Stay with Word? That's a laugh" (humorist Barbara Johnson). "I left Word so I wouldn't get left behind" (Tim LaHaye, co-author of the "Left Behind" novels). Gaylord charges Nelson with breach of contract, false advertising and unfair competition. Millions of dollars could be at stake, although Gaylord hasn't specified any amount.

Nelson's general counsel, Eric Heyden, acknowledged the attention-grabbing headlines "can look damaging" but said ad copy explaining the name change has "very positive things to say about Word."

Oregon Catholics want removal of billboard

MEDFORD, Ore. >> Oregon Roman Catholics are demanding removal of a highway billboard that claims "The Pope is the Antichrist."

The sign on Interstate 5 near Medford was rented by Larry Weathers, an elder at Rogue Valley Historical Seventh-day Adventist Church, a small group that is distinct from the main Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Catholic Sentinel newspaper ran an editorial urging western Oregon's 290,000 Catholics to call Outdoor Media Dimensions, which leased the sign, and demand removal. A spokeswoman for Outdoor Media said the billboard does not express company opinion.

"We're not against Catholics or against their religion, just the political, religious organization of the Vatican," said Weathers, a barber.

David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, said, "The best antidote to speech we don't like as a society is to speak out against it."

Judge sets new rules Scientologist dispute

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. >> A judge has taken steps to try to end public bickering between the Church of Scientology and one of its critics, the Lisa McPherson Trust.

Circuit Judge Thomas Penick said each side, if wanting to picket, must give an hour's notice to Clearwater police.

Penick also set a 10-foot separation rule and forbade either side from yelling, shouting, whistling, singing or creating loud noise that would disturb "reasonable persons of ordinary sensibilities."

The order extends a previous no-picket zone to stop trust members from waving signs across from where church members get off a bus to go to the Scientology cafeteria. The cafeteria is a block from the trust headquarters.


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